tv Oral Histories CSPAN September 10, 2016 1:45pm-2:16pm EDT
defense protective services at the pentagon, thank you for sharing your story with us here at c-span. guest: my pleasure. >> you're watching american history tv all weekend, every weekend on c-span3. to join the conversation find us on facebook at c-span history. c-span remember september 11 with the stories of americans who were at the white house, the u.s. capital, pentagon and in the skies above washington dc. mary beth cahill was senator edwin -- edward kennedy's staff. she remembers that laura bush arrived on capitol hill early that morning to testify before congress to the first lady was with senator kennedy when she
informed can that a second plane had hit the road truth and to. -- head hit the world trade center. you first work for senator kennedy and what was your job? i couldn't figure out what i wanted to do, then i heard that senator kennedy was looking for a chief of staff or it that was a job that i wanted to get. i went to work for him i believe the first of may of 2001. host: the morning of september 11, you have been on the job for a couple of months. how did your day begin? guest: the first lady was testifying on education. this was groundbreaking because first ladies don't generally testify in senate hearings. there have been a lot of preparation over the weeks beforehand, a lot of negotiation
with the white house about how this would go. i got up early to get to the office. it was a beautiful day. deal. a big i was looking forward to something that would go without glitches. the first lady was notified just before she left the white house about the first plane hitting the world trade center. she knew something had happened in new york city. take us from that point. guest: she came in and the senator was there very early that morning preparing his opening statement. office. the outer there was a small television on my desk where i could watch what was happening on the floor. planewed the first hitting the tower. and heinto his office
came out and stood behind my desk and watched it. he was a pilot himself and he said there's no way that just happened. he said that had to be intentional. there was very chaotic reporting. we heard the first lady -- host: what was going through your mind at that moment and went back in? what were you thinking about? pictures were so stirring of what you saw with the plane hitting the tower. and the people running away in lower manhattan. but there were is big event right in front of me. we had to prepare for that. it was a mix of those two things. television stations kept going and going on the world trade center.
the first lady arrives at the capitol. were you there to greet her? guest: yes. as soon as i introduced her to the staff people, she looked lovely. she was very composed. she and the senator went into his office to begin to talk about the upcoming testimony in the hearing. the secret service was in the office next door waiting for her. the second time it was hit i was watching the tv on my desk. i let her know. i walked into the senator's office and i gave him a note and he read it. seemed as though there was never going to be the hearing. the event she was therefore was not going to take place.
wassecret service detail getting all kinds of information. -- recollection is that she called her husband. then there was a long -- lull. nobody knew what was going to happen. it was reported that the capital might be one of the targets, but there was no certainty about that. then the plane at the pentagon. nobody knew what to do. came from the secretary of defense's office. grayis point, senator john had come down and he and mrs. bush and senator kennedy were in his office, just try to figure
out what was going to happen with her next. and i hope it's correct that she also talked to her daughter. then they all went down there's too senator gregg's office. people were leaving in the senate. there is a protocol as the building is clear. space outside around the capital. we were there for white a while you it was clear that there was no way we were going back into the office. is theng i remember most beauty of the day. and the impossibility of getting anywhere. took -- my husband walked from 2100 pennsylvania to
the house in northwest washington, and it took him maybe an hour and a half. for me to go from capitol hill to the same house, it took about three and a half hours. i tried every way possible to get there. phoneuldn't use your cell , besides the radeon the car there was no way to know what was going on. you feel helpless. you could see the plume of smoke from the pentagon. host: i want to go back to that moment. what did you write in the note and what were you thinking as you walk into the senator's i thought this is something she needs to know right away, that it was something that senator kennedy should tell her. second planethat a
had hit the world trade center. no more than. do you remember his facial expression? guest: i do. graham is the right word. --grim is the right word. he had fortitude but he was very sober about this. host: you are in charge of his staff. what were you seeing as you watch these in -- events unfold and what were your responsibilities. guest: i had to make sure everybody was safe and taken care of. clear thatame nothing was going forward in the senate immediately we went outside to our space.
with still in the senate this bush and senator gregg. , thesenator gregg's office secret service took us is bush to wherever she went to her senator kennedy went home. he came up to talk to the staff people are -- people and then he went home. host: did you talk to him later in the day? guest: i talked to him all day long. after that the capital was close. the senate office buildings were close. you could not go to work. that was unacceptable. he had a small hideaway in his
office in the capital. at days later he was there 8:00. i was there at 8:00 with him. the phones not working, nobody in reception. but because two of those planes had taken off from boston there were a lot of messages. that became his end all. making sure the families of the 9/11 victims got what they needed from the federal government. call.e started to do was we got a list of the people on the planes and he called their families. one after another. there were two people on our staff helping them fill out paperwork, to decide whether or not they wanted to participate in the settlement that had been negotiated.
he was at the center of all of that. on his staffone know people on board the planes? guest: i did not know anyone personally. a friend of a friend was on the plane. to not know someone. it was a normal shuttle. if you got on a plane you know people. people knew people on the plane. host: go back to the moment you left the capital area do you remember what time it was and what you were thinking as you were sitting in washington dc traffic trying to get to your home in northwest washington, which was just a couple of miles away. guest: it usually takes 20 minutes to get there.
i was not personally frightened. it seems unimaginable. and very random. i was just thinking what is next . what needs to happen? what do we do about the staff? said, myself on went out in the car. host: as you talk to this senator in substance the days do remember the conversations outside of the business of trying to figure at what was going on with the families. did you ever have time to reflect on this? guest: he was very reflective. families in massachusetts who lost someone or some of the family seaside tv
-- he saw on tv, it was heartbreaking. he was in control of that. he felt he had to do something area as it became clear that u.s.,as an assault on the there was no question about his and that this had occurred. likelook at this, it seems an innocent time even though it was only 10 years ago. when i first came to washington i came up to the capital. you could drive up to every monument. you could walk up to visit your representative or senator without having your bags searched or anything like that. and now we just take for granted
the way life has changed. extraordinary when we think now about how life was then and how much simpler it was , travel, to go to a government office, to go to a government monument it was a different world. host: did 9/11 changed ted kennedy in any way? guest: he was in his late 60's when 9/11 happened. he had been through a lot in his life. i think he took the decisions about the war in iraq very seriously, the determination to know all the information that was available. skepticism of his
rushing to war in iraq, but also wanting to make sure that the country was defended. if you recall at that point in time, a lot of top-secret documents were made available to senators in the capital. only senators could go. andill go home for dinner come back and stay there until 10:00. he did the four weeks to read these as he was making his decision. back to the go moments on that day. the first lady was in your office and she was leaving. what hermember security detail was like and the x russians on other faces including senator right? senator gregg look is this like -- business-like.
lady looks a repeat she's out with the first family and she looked composed. there was a lot of flurry with her security detail as they moved her down the hall. host: what time did you make it home? or five :00bly 4:30 -- 5:00. host: what were you thinking? i was done -- i was stunned. host: as you remember that evening and you put your head down at night did you have time to reflect on the role that you played on the sister day? guest: i didn't think of myself
as playing a role. i had witnessed something special between two very eminent americans. they conducted themselves with calmness. that night nobody knew what would happen the day. with all of the reports and jane garvey announcing that every plane was grounded and nobody could get back into the country. there wasn't a rental car anywhere in the country. you just did not know what was next. host: what was involved in terms of the senators office with other inquiries or domains they may have had. wast: the boston office
open. so they began hearing from families, from victims. a lot of boston firefighters went down to new york. the big migration to try to help out in new york. recall attempt if you the pictures with loved ones xers on them. -- textures on them. -- inquiriesions indicated the plane in pennsylvania was probably heading for the u.s. capitol. had been been successful how different do you think it would be today?
guest: we would be different i think. the changes that have taken place have taken place. congress would have reconstituted itself and gotten back to business. there was a strong feeling on both parties that it was necessary to do the nations business in the face of this kind of attack. am happy that nothing ever hit thatapital, but beyond tragedy that happened, the government carried on. host: do you remember what you and your husband were talking about that evening? guest: we were talking about the traffic. about the fact that you could not get in touch with anybody, but every phone line, it was
impossible to get a dial tone. and we were watching television. there was nothing to talk about except the images that you were seeking on television. host: when was the last time that day you talk with senator kennedy. do you remember what you said to each other? guest: it was pretty late. 10:00 or 10:30. it was i will talk to tomorrow and we will figure it out tomorrow area the next day the offices were still flows -- still closed and they did not want you anywhere near the capital. it was two or three days later when the allowed elected representatives to go back into the capital that -- is itself but not the office building. we met at his hideaway and set up shop. host: did you ever have another hearing with the first lady on education?
guest: we did not. the white house words working closely on the outline for no child left mind at the time, which was a collaborative effort. the occasion never arose. we were out of business for a while. things moved on to other subjects. whether or not there was a request for her to, or whether it was offered. host: we also have the patriot act as a result of september 11, the work in a rock and later in afghanistan. in terms of legislation the congress dealt with, what struck you? guest: what struck me was the make some restitution
of the families of the victims. self and11 fund -- we spent a lot of time on. there was the balance of the danger to the country versus civil liberties. senator kennedy was mindful of that every day. imagine the country bent -- became a very self the -- so protective. -- protection of a vast number of people.
it was necessary to keep in mind the liberties of the people who live there. in 2004 what was your role with the john kerry campaign? i left senator kennedy's office in 2003 and i was the manager for the kerry campaign. your role as you look back at that campaign was to do what? howt: it was to figure out senator kerry was going to win the domination. it was raising enough money and was popular and on the cover of star hadazine, carries ascended.
he wanted to make sure that he did well. how was he going to win iowa? that was my immediate thing that time. dean was raising all of the money. fast-forward to the following 2004. any reelection campaign is a referendum on the president in power. bush reacted to 9/11. guest: i think the images immediately after 9/11 when the president was at ground zero and was embracing the firefighters were very strong and that was -- backdrop under which we the election. he is given a -- he was very wanted this to be far on that basis.
he succeeded. host: looking back at the campaign on the issue of national security and september 11, anything you think the kerry campaign could have done differently? -- i think wethat should have allowed the country formerjohn kerry as a officer and hero that he was in a day to day more realistic way. that was a failure of the campaign. host: let me go back to the early days after september 11. did you ever travel to the pentagon or shanksville pennsylvania? guest: i have been to the pentagon and to the world trade center but not to shanksville. pentagon, the
building is a monument. secretary rumsfeld included trying to run to the wing to help people. it is still a hole in the ground essentially. maybe we will move forward in the next few years. host: do your member your first thoughts the first time we saw ground zero? the amazing thing is how enormous it is. missing, the profile of manhattan. host: how did the country change? guest: i think it turned inward.
it is very self rejected. protective. victims -- inhe braced the victims. host: politically did it change the country? guest: it did change the country veryse we had been involved and to plastic concerns. in domestic concerns. then we took a much wider view of the world. day, andies on to this laden andwn osama bin
all the people involved in it. host: senator kennedy passed away seven years after 9/11. how do youhere today think you would remember the events of september 11? them: he would remember heh great sadness because was extraordinary. host: how will you commemorate the event? guest: everybody i think we'll spend the day thinking back to where they were. it is one of those immovable things. everybody knows when the first heard about the tower. , watching tvll be all day long to see the
commemoration of the who died. thank you for your time and perspective. guest: thank you. you are watching american history tv all weekend, every weekend on c-span three to join the conversation, like us on debt c-span history. columnist david k johnston discusses his book, the making of donna kropp -- donald trump. >> imf donna. -- i met donald. he reminded me of the amazing mermaid and the two headed woman. i started asking about him and his competitors including steve and some gamblers also to me that donald does not
know anything about the casino business. >> the c-span radio app makes it easy to follow the election wherever you are heard it is free to download from the apple play.re or google get audio coverage and up-to-the-minute schedule information for c-span radio and and historypodcasts programs. stay up to date on all the election coverage or c-span's radio app means you always have c-span, go. panelwill hear from a that discusses how black americans understood freedom to the lens of economics, marriage and citizenship. this was part of a three-day conference hosted by the smithsonian museum and the american historic association.